A union has branded a message urging council staff to report suspected protestors to the police ahead of Trump’s arrival for D-Day 75 as ‘wholly inappropriate’
In an email, which was withdrawn ‘immediately’, Portsmouth City Council workers were encouraged to provide descriptions, social media profiles, telephone numbers and vehicle information of those ‘seeking to disrupt’ the event.
But Hampshire police said the wording of the request that referenced terrorist activity, crime, disorder and protests did not include peaceful demonstrations.
A police spokeswoman said,
“We’re not stopping people from carrying out lawful protest.”
Portsmouth Council: Only relate to illegal protests
A council spokesman added:
“The community partnership information form was shared with staff who are familiar with it and know it is for reporting illegal activity. At no point was there any intention that anyone would consider reporting peaceful protest.
“As soon as it became clear there was ambiguity in the message it was clarified to staff that it did not relate to peaceful protest in any way.”
The Portsmouth branch of Unison lodged a formal complaint about the email that was sent last week.
Unison: “Peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society”
James Smith, from Unison South East, said:
“The inclusion of reference to “protest” remains controversial as peaceful protest is a vital part of a democratic society which has a long and respected tradition in the UK.
“There is not typically a requirement to give prior notice of a lawful protest.”
Leader: “Not appropriate to be asking people to inform on others”
Leader of Portsmouth council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, agreed. He said,
“It was really inappropriate.
“Within a democracy people are allowed to protest. It’s not illegal and it is not appropriate to be asking people to inform on others in this way. We don’t live in a society where that is acceptable.”
On Saturday, June 1 a protest against Trump was held in Commercial Road in Portsmouth and in Cosham by members of the Portsmouth Together Against Trump group.
And a petition against Trump attending the D-Day 75 event in Portsmouth has garnered more than 83,000 signatures.
A peaceful protest against Donald Trump’s visit is planned to take place in Guildhall Square on Wednesday, 5th June – away from the commemorations on Southsea Common.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson commented:
“I hope there won’t be protests around the common as I think that will take away from the focus that should be on the veterans. If people are going to protest there is a gathering in Guildhall Square.”
Jones: “This week is bigger than any of this”
Tory boss Cllr Donna Jones added:
“This week is bigger than any of this. We should only be interested in the veterans. We should all have the utmost respect for those who gave their lives for this country. By protesting you are making this about Donald Trump and not about D-Day.”
This week gold commander for D-Day 75, assistant chief constable Dave Hardcastle said the force would ‘facilitate’ peaceful protest.